Don’t Know What You Got ‘Til It’s Gone

Fletcher began to suspect his husband was cheating on him when Brady started to come home late at night, smelling of smoke and tasting of another man.  Fletcher would embrace Brady at night, and he could smell the scent on him.  Brady worked as a banker downtown, while Fletcher worked in a small bookstore in a brand new shopping center, where he worked more normal eight hour days with only the occasional evening.

The shopping center itself was made from glass and steel, a cathedral to the Big Box stores and brands.  The bookstore was different–it was small and tucked away behind the escalators, with piles of books stacked on top of each other on the floor and on the shelves.  There were no windows and the owner kept the lights dim, contrasting it sharply with the brightly-lit mall outside.

The shopping center had its own temple with shrines dedicated to each of the thirteen gods.  Fletcher went one day after work in order to ask Toskagee for guidance, but the line to pray before the shrine was long because it was the week before Valentine’s Day.  The temple was a glass atrium; the cold winter sun shone through the roof and walls, and small birds fluttered between the trees.  The shrines were surrounded by bright plants and offerings.

All of theme except for Tekamthi.  Her shrine was sparse and empty, set off to the side.  A small fire burned in a copper pot, flanked on both sides by small piles of bones.  Few people ever sought Tekamthi’s blessings because no one wanted war or death.  Fletcher frowned, and despite himself, he stepped out of line and walked over to her shrine.  He looked up at the statue carved from glassy black obsidian; her wings were spread behind her and she held her Kentucky rifle above her head.  He felt something strange in his gut, as if someone was tying it into a knot.

Fletcher turned away from the statue and left the temple.


Fletcher was organizing boxes of old books in the back when he found a strange title, The Love of Blood by someone named Orlando Hull.  The cover was some black, pink and white abstract design, and he didn’t recognize the title or the author.  It wasn’t a large book (perhaps a hundred pages at most), and Fletcher felt the urge to read it.  He took it home that night.  Brady hadn’t called, but Fletcher wasn’t surprised anymore when Brady didn’t come home on time.

The Love of Blood was a spell book, covering spells for both Tekamthi and Toskagee, the goddess of war and the goddess of love–it was an interesting combination, but it made sense to Fletcher.  Scorned lovers often became violent, looking for retribution.  Fletcher wasn’t sure that’s what he wanted.  He just wanted his husband back.  He had trouble remembering the last time the two of them had had a proper conversation.

Brady came back late at night, but had fallen asleep on the couch, which surprised Fletcher.  “I didn’t hear you come in,” he said.

“I didn’t want to wake you,” Brady said.

“I would have been fine with that,” Fletcher said.  “We haven’t had a lot time to talk lately.”

“I’m sorry.  Work’s been crazy.”

“I love you.”

“I’ll see you tonight,” Brady said before leaving for the day.

Fletcher put away Brady’s clothes before going to work.  He didn’t like the way the clothes smelled, but there was nothing he could do about it now.  At lunch, he visited the temple again; instead of getting in line to see Toskagee, he sat in front of Tekamthi’s shrine with a copy of The Love of Blood in his lap.  He felt the same twisting feeling in his gut; it was a cold, icy grip that was holding onto him, but this time, he didn’t run.

He was actually beginning to like looking at the shrine.


Fletcher tried to schedule a date night for the two of them on Friday, but Brady had to cancel.  Work, he said.  On a Friday night?  That was the final straw.  Fletcher ordered Chinese delivery, and stared at The Love of Blood all night.  Fletcher licked his lips and wiped his palms on his pants.  He just wanted his husband back.

Fletcher wasn’t scheduled to work on Saturday, but he went to the shopping center.  It was warm for a February, and the air conditioner inside the mall was working overtime.  The lines to see Toskagee had grown during the weekend, but Fletcher ignored them.  He sat in front of the statue, pressed his hands together and prayed.  He just wanted his husband back, so he dropped the fetish into the fire.  He’d made it from blood, hair and scraps of clothes.  It caught fire and disappeared into the flame.


There was a woman waiting for Fletcher when he returned home.  She was lying on a living room sofa, reading Orlando Hull’s The Love of Blood.  She had pale skin and long, pale red hair, and when she looked at him, he froze.  Her eyes were red irises on black sclera with diamond-shaped pupils.  She was a goddess in red robes and black armor.  It took Fletcher a moment to identify her as Onthaneequay, the daughter of Tekamthi and Toskagee and the goddess of scorned lovers.

“Don’t look so surprised,” Onthaneequay said, standing up.  “You were the one who called me here.”

“What did you do?” Fletcher asked.  He was surprised at how abrupt he was with a goddess.

“The question, is,” Onthaneequay folded her hands in front of her, “what did you do?”

Fletcher was shaking and he felt his knees go week.  Onthaneequay remained where she was standing, a small smile on her face.  There was a tapping on the window and Onthaneequay walked over to open it.  A small creature came in, a grotesque mane of feathers the size of a cat.

The phone began to ring.  “I just wanted my husband back.”

“You should answer that,” Onthaneequay said.  The creature climbed onto her shoulder and pecked at her ear.

“I never wanted this.”

The phone continued to ring.

“Answer the phone,” Onthaneequay said.

Fletcher picked up the phone.  “Hello…yes, this is me…oh, where…are you sure…I, I don’t know…I can…thank you.”

“Well?” Onthaneequay asked as Fletcher hung up the phone.

“Brady…Brady died.  Car accident.”  He looked up at Onthaneequay, his fists clenched in rage.  “I never asked for this.  I didn’t want this.”

“My mothers may have created humans, but I don’t think we’ll ever truly understand our creations.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Onthaneequay shrugged and turned to leave.  She stopped and looked over his shoulder at him.  “He wasn’t being unfaithful.”

Fletcher stared at her.  “Wh-wh-what?”

“He was working late for overtime pay.”

“But…why?  What for?”

“I only know what I know.”

Onthaneequay left through the back door.  Fletcher collapsed and began to sob.

Meeting the Sphinx

I parked my silver travel trailer at the edge of the RV park, as far from the national park’s main lodge as I could.  The park rangers had been careful to warn me about the dangers that came with the park’s heat and dryness.  I was an old hand at this.  I wouldn’t stray far from my base.  I’d carry plenty of water with me.

The dried lake bed stretched out from horizon to horizon.  Front to back, left to right.  In the far distance was the ridges of the Diablo Mesa.  I would leave early in the morning and keep to the edges of the dried lake until I found some degree of shade.  I’d stop, rest and draw whatever I saw.  It was repetitive, but it was relaxing.

There was a sphinx.  They weren’t uncommon in these parts, and I’d been told to stay away from them.  I watched in silence.  Browned skin of her head and chest gave way to the tawny fur of a lion’s body.  Wings spread back from her shoulders.  Jet black hair that shined.  I was transfixed and spent several days sketching her.

Some days later, the sphinx approached me.  She approached me in her glory, towering over me like a monster from some ancient childhood nightmare.  The light of Saturn glimmered off the gold she wore.  There was gold in her hair and on her ears.  Bands of gold, jade and lapis lazuli encircled her neck.

“I see you,” the sphinx said.

“And I see you too.”

The sphinx sat down on her haunches.

“I’m not supposed to talk to you,” I said.

“Yet here we are.”

“Here we are.”

The sphinx nodded her head.

My face was burnt red and was covered in sweat.  I held up my sketchpad to show the sphinx what I’d been drawing.

“That’s me,” the sphinx said.  A statement, not a question.

“It is.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m sketching life.”

“Life?  There is little life here.”

“I sketch what I see.”

“You’re trespassing.”

“This is public land.”

“I don’t recognize your government.”

“A sovereign citizen type, huh?” I asked.

The sphinx furrowed her brows.

“Sorry, bad joke.”  I wiped the sweat from my forehead.  “I can leave if you’d like.”

The sphinx studied me for several agonizing moments.  She stood up and shook her head.  Without answering me, she began to walk away, across the dried lake bed.

“What’s your name?” I called.

The sphinx remained silent, eventually becoming a distant figure marred by the waves of heat that rose from the ground.

Loki Goodfellow

Meshigumee stepped out of the arch, her bare feet crunching the snow under her and sending a jolt of cold through her.  “Blast you, you fiend,” she said, her words turning into a cloud in front of her.  Her arch had appeared in the middle of a forest; she was surrounded by tall, narrow pine trees that formed an overlapping canopy above her, while smaller junipers and spruces were gathered close to the forest floor.  Despite that, snow was falling from the grey sky.  The snow had already accumulated heavily, with drifts almost as tall as she was.

“Bloody snow,” Meshigumee muttered.  Why couldn’t Loki have picked a more hospitable location for her sphere?

Meshigumee stopped when she saw the saber cat blocking her path.  The saber cat’s long teeth were yellowed and glinted in the moonlight, and its fur was grey with darker stripes, though the tips of its muzzle, ears and feet were almost black.

“Why hello there,” Meshigumee said, folding her hands in front of her.  The saber cat was the largest Meshigumee had ever seen, with its shoulders reaching almost to Meshigumee’s chest.  “Where’s your mother?”

The saber cat stared at Meshigumee with its unblinking blue eyes.

“I am Meshigumee, the All-Mother of the Great Waters of the World.  I’m presuming that you’re, Sunjkothi the World Eater.  I am wishing to speak with your mother, Loki Goodfellow.”

Sunjkothi’s breath fogged in front of her nostrils.  Without a sound, she turned and began to walk away.  After a few steps, she stopped and turned her head to look at Meshigumee.  Meshigumee took several steps forward, and Sunjkothi kept walking, leading Meshigumee deeper and deeper into the forest.  After several long minutes, Meshigumee saw a faint light ahead of them.  As they drew closer, she saw that it was a fire underneath a massive ash tree that was at least two or three chains tall, and despite the season, it still had its leaves.

The fire had been built in a small clearing underneath the wide expanse of the ash tree’s leaves.  Meshigumee saw that there were several bodies hanging from the lower branches.  Their clothing was old and tattered, and each one had a bag pulled over their heads.  She looked up, and sitting in the branches were scores–hundreds, maybe–of albino barn owls with feathers as white as snow and eyes as red as blood.

Djidwewin, messengers of Loki Goodfellow.

“I almost didn’t see you approaching,” a voice said from above.

Meshigumee looked up and saw a large, red eye staring down at her.  She subconsciously smoothed out the folds of her robe; the fabric was white with pale silver scrollwork and runes stitched into it, while the tips of the long sleeves and the hem gathered around her feet were black.  “Hello, Loki Goodfellow,” Meshigumee said.  “It’s been too long since we’ve spoken.  I wish to speak with you as an equal.”

“An equal, heh?” Loki asked.  “How many millennia has it taken for you to admit that?”

Meshigumee bit her tongue to stop herself from trading barbs with Loki.

“You want something from me, don’t you?  Heh, can’t be helped, I suppose.”

Loki jumped down from her perch somewhere in the tree and landed in front of Meshigumee.  She was half a hand taller than Meshigumee, but was slender and willowy–almost as if a stiff breeze could know her over.  One eye was red, while the other was hidden by an eye patch, which covered angry scar tissue.  She dressed as a mortal would: leather jacket, plaid shirt, ripped jeans and heavy boots.

“Here we are, as equals,” Loki Goodfellow said, smirking.  Sunjkothi walked around Loki and curled up next to the fire.  “Have you come here to extend an apology to me?”

Meshigumee’s eyes narrowed.  “An apology?  What…” she stopped herself and shook her head.  “What has happened has happened, and it cannot be changed.”

“Heh, convenient for you to say,” Loki said.

“I see you’ve been in the mortal realm,” Meshigumee said.

“They, at least, accept me for who I am.”  Loki brushed some of her green hair behind her pointed ears.  “Why did you come all the way here, Meshigumee?  It’s not an easy trip from the highest spheres of the heavens all the way down here.”

“I wanted to see you,” Meshigumee said.

Loki barked laughter.  “How many millennia has it been since you threw me out?  How many millennia has it been since you last laid eyes upon me?”

“Our sisters still suspect me.”

Our sisters?  Our sisters?  You speak to me of our sisters?”

Meshigumee looked down.  Perhaps coming here had been a mistake.
Loki stood up and rubbed her hands together.  “Out of all of them, you were the only one who ever gave me the time of day.”

“My sisters might feel differently, but I always thought you were one of us.”

Loki stared at the fire but didn’t say anything.  Sunjkothi looked up at Meshigumee, regarding her with cold, blue eyes.

“You’re familiar with Captain Stormalong, aren’t you?” Loki asked.

Meshigumee nodded her head.

“On his first voyage on his clipper, the Courser, the ship was attacked by a kraken.  Captain Stormalong, being the giant he was, fought the kraken, and eventually defeated it by tying its tentacles together.  Rather than killing the creature, he took pity on it and let it live, but he trapped it in Davy Jones’ Locker.

“Sometime later, Captain Stormalong was enlisted by President Lincoln to capture Confederate blockade runners.  Desperately short on ships and men, Captain Stormalong decided that he needed help from former enemies such as the kraken.  So Captain Stormalong released the kraken from Davy Jones’ Locker with the understanding that the kraken would attack Confederate blockade runners.  But the kraken had spent years in that watery prison, smarting at what Captain Stormalong had done to him, so when he was released, he grappled with Captain Stormalong and drug him to the ocean’s depth, where the two of them remain to this day.”

“That’s not a very funny joke,” Meshigumee said.

“It wasn’t meant to be a joke,” Loki said.  She started towards Meshigumee, who flinched and took a step back.  Loki laughed.  “It’s just a story, presumable one you’re familiar with.”

Meshigumee took a few moments to compose herself.  “Yes, I’m quite familiar with the tales of Captain Stormalong.”

Loki looked about to say something, but she stopped.  She looked up at the branches of the ash tree and remained silent.  The bodies hanging from the branches swayed back and forth as a light breeze blew through the forest.  Snow had accumulated on their shoulders and hooded heads.  Not even Chilhowee paraded the corpses of the dead and the damned in her sphere.

“They’re me,” Loki said, still staring up at the branches.  “Forms and shapes I’ve taken in my life.”

“An odd way of storing them.”

“It’s convenient and they’re always in reach.”

“I suppose they would be.”  Meshigumee reached into one of her sleeves and pulled out a small package wrapped in wax paper.  “I brought an offering, of sorts.”

Loki looked down and raised an eyebrow.  “An offering?”

“Apple fritters, made from the apples picked from the groves of Hissipaska,” Meshigumee said.

Loki took the package and opened it.  Inside were a dozen apple fritters, still warm from the hot oil.  “Did she know you were taking the apples to give to me?”

“What Hissipaska doesn’t know won’t hurt her,” Meshigumee shrugged.

Loki took one of the fritters and bit into it.  Steam and heat was rising from the fried dough in the cold air.

“Well…?” Meshigumee asked.

“What are you asking for?” Loki asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Meshigumee, the All-Mother of the Great Waters of the World, would not come to my lowly sphere to ply me with fried dough simply because she wanted to chit chat,” Loki said.  She finished the fritter and licked the grease from her fingers.  “As much as I appreciate the offering, I sense that there’s some ulterior motive behind it.”

Loki turned around and knelt down next to a pack that was leaning against the tree.  She placed the package inside the pack, and Meshigumee remained silent.

“Well?” Loki asked, looking over her shoulder at Meshigumee.

“I want you to remember who stood up for you.”

“A little late, don’t you think?”

“I’m sorry for the delay, but it is difficult for me to get away.”

“I’m sure it is,” Loki said.  She stood up and slung the pack across her shoulders.  “I hold no ill will or spite in my heart for you or your sisters, nor do I hold any particular love.  It is what it is.”  She took several long steps towards Meshigumee, standing chest to chest with her.  Meshigumee wasn’t used to be looking down upon as Tekamthi was her only sister taller than she was.  “What is done is done, and what will come will come.  There is nothing any of us can do to stop that.”

“We’re gods,” Meshigumee said.

“But as with the mortals below us, we are bound to the whims and wills of Fate.”  Loki leaned down and whispered into Meshigumee’s ear.  “You know my place in things as well as I do, and I would encourage you to not anger Fate.  She is quite a fickle woman.”

“You would be an expert in such things,” Meshigumee said.

Loki’s laugh was loud and warm in Meshigumee’s ear.  “Yes, I believe I would.”  Loki stepped back, grinning.  “Take care, Meshigumee.  I don’t know when our paths will cross again, but I do hope that it will be soon.”

Loki walked around Meshigumee and into the shadows of the trees.  Sunjkothi stood up and walked after Loki, giving Meshigumee one last look with her blue eyes.  The two of them disappeared into the forest, leaving Meshigumee alone.  She raised her eyes and saw the scores of albino owls above her.  Loki’s eyes and ears…and messengers.

Meshigumee shook her head and held in a sigh.  Loki Goodfellow would come around, eventually.